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Bloomberg has a story about how Generation Z - people born between the mid-1990s to the early 2000s - seems to have an unexpected affection for the shopping mall, which could promise new life for a retailing construct that has fallen on hard times in recent years.

According to the story, “Around 95 percent of them visited a physical shopping center in a three-month period in 2018, as opposed to just 75 percent of millennials and 58 percent of Gen X, according to an International Council of Shopping Centers study. And they genuinely like it; three-quarters of them said going to a brick-and-mortar store was a better experience than online, ICSC found.”

That doesn’t mean they’re willing to accept the same-old, same-old mall experience: “Different is the name-of-the-game for these young adults. Nearly half of Gen Z shoppers want products tailor-made to their tastes and interests, according to a 2018 report from IBM and the National Retail Federation. To be sure, previous generations personalized their apparel and accessories in ways they wanted, like adding patches and buttons. The difference for this generation is that retailers have more technology already in place to acquiesce to their requests right from the start.”

writes that Gen Z appreciates brick and mortar, “but they aren’t just millennials living in a different time. Today’s teens interact differently with stores than their older siblings and Gen X parents before them, and several retailers who didn’t understand the fundamental differences in how they shop landed themselves in bankruptcy court.”

Retailers and tech companies that understand that will be well-positioned to thrive, the story suggests. For example, “RetailMeNot, a digital coupon provider, is able to send push notifications to shoppers when they’re in a mall to alert them to potential discounts. A recent survey from the startup found that an overwhelming 91 percent of Gen Z shoppers are searching for deals on their mobile phones while inside retail locations.”
KC's View:
Despite my general skepticism about the future of many of America’s malls, I have no argument with the premise that if they evolve into something different … something more engaging, relevant and resonant for shoppers, speaking to their hearts and heads … then malls can survive. But they’ll be tomorrow’s malls, not yesterday’s.